Title: The Immortal Crown
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Age of X (Book #2)
Publication Date: May 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
ISBN-10: 0525953698 (Dutton/Penguin)
ISBN-13: 978-0525953692 (Dutton/Penguin)
Reviewed by: Steph
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Vampire Academy and Bloodline series returns with the second installment in her acclaimed Age of X series.
Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.
Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.
Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.
Quick & Dirty: Justin and Mae travel to Arcadia, where they will come face to face with another powerful elect. Will they be able to return safely to the RUNA?
Opening Sentence: Mae Koskinen was one of her country’s most elite soldiers.
Dang, Richelle Mead knows how to end a book! I can tell you right now, you’re going to wish book 3 was available when you finish this one. I was looking forward to reading this book even though I thought the first one was a bit confusing at times. I’m so glad that I didn’t let my issues with the first book stop me from reading this one!
Justin and Mae are continuing their work investigating potential religious cults in the provinces. Upon returning to the RUNA after one such trip, Justin meets with Lucian Darling, who tells him he’s putting together a delegation for a diplomatic visit to Arcadia, one of the RUNA’s biggest rivals. Seeing as Arcadia’s government is centered around one religion, Lucian would like Justin to join the delegation. Justin initially refuses, but Mae convinces him they should go.
Mae has her own motives for wanting to go to Arcadia. She has long been searching for her niece, who she knows is in Arcadia. An unknown god has been sending Mae visions of where her niece is located, and while this worries Mae, she hopes that the visions are accurate and that this trip will give her the opportunity to find her niece.
Thus begins what is going to be a very long trip. Not only is Arcadia religiously restrictive, it also has very old fashioned ideas about women, giving them no rights whatsoever. Since the RUNA’s delegation would not be taken seriously if women were brought along as soldiers, Mae must pose as Justin’s concubine. This makes it very hard for Mae to search for her niece. Justin faces his own difficulties when dealing with the country’s religious leader, who he discovers is a very powerful elect. Justin must deal with him while trying to hide his own elect status. Between his interactions with the Arcadian religious leader and his continued attempts to keep from becoming tied to Odin, Justin has his hands full. This trip is certainly not going to be boring!
One problem I had with the first book in the series is that it seemed to thrust the reader into this world with very little explanation as to how the world operates. It took me forever to figure out what was going on. Thankfully, in this book, Richelle Mead does a better job of spelling things out, so I now feel I have a much better handle on how things work. This also resulted in me getting caught up in the action much quicker than I did when reading the first book.
My feelings towards the main characters has also improved. I thought Justin was much more likeable this time around. A big reason for this is that the trip to Arcadia doesn’t allow Justin the opportunity to continue his womanizing and drug taking, something which made it very hard for me to like him in the first book. It was really nice to see him clear headed in this book.
I also warmed up towards Mae. In her search for her niece, we get to see a much softer side to Mae, which was nice. She can still kick butt, which she proves on more than one occasion, but the added vulnerability gave much greater depth to her character, which I really appreciated.
By and large, I found this book much more enjoyable and accessible than the first book in the series. By the end of the book, I was completely hooked and didn’t want it to end. And by the way the book ended, I really wish book 3 was here already!
Relax, Magnus said. Expand your senses. Think of me. Think of becoming me.
You’re going to turn me into a bird? Justin asked him.
Not exactly. Just try to let go of your own body. Focus on mine, on wings, on flight, on my essence.
It wasn’t easy, and not just because of the metaphysical nature of the task. Justin had never seen Magnus physically-well, not since a brief glimpse on a smoky night. But Justin did his best to focus on that memory and what he knew of the raven now, of his personalty and nature. Magnus talked him through it, guiding Justin’s mind and breathing until time and his surroundings faded away. A strange euphoria began to fill Justin’s body, an indescribable power like nothing he’d ever felt, though it reminded him of the high brought about by some of the sketchier drugs he’d taken in his life.
Suddenly, Justin had a sense of emergence, like he was breaking through a barrier or bursting from water. The room snapped into focus, clearer and more vivid than before as he looked down on it…and himself.
There he was, still on the bed. His body sat in the same cross-legged position, but his blank, staring eyes were like those of someone stoned or comatose. The weirdness of it started to break Justin’s control, but Magnus talked him back.
That’s only your body, your common physical form, the raven said. You’re sharing mine now. The parts of you that matter, your soul and your essence, are in this form. You’re safe. You’ll return to your body…eventually.
Justin looked around the room again and became aware that he was circling it, gliding and hovering on large, black wings. By the door, Mae stared up at him with wide eyes, and while she didn’t look scared, per se, she certainly appeared a little disbelieving.
She can see us, he told Magnus.
Yes. We’re in my physical form. You don’t have the strength or power to go in my invisible form, unfortunately.
What is that…joy I feel? Justin asked. That bliss? Is it just that awesome being a raven?
Well, yes, said Horatio.
Are you in this body too? Justin asked, startled.
Magnus answered. No, but we are always joined. Thought and memory cannot be separated. As for that bliss, that is what it feel like to open yourself up to Odin. Now come. You won’t be able to stay in this state all night, and we need to go.
Justin flew toward the open window, leaving a gawking Mae behind, unsure whether he or Magnus was the one fully in control.
At times, as they flew through the darkening twilight toward the lights of downtown Divinia, Justin felt as though he were indeed the one powering those strong wings. Other times, it seemed as though he were merely a rider. Regardless of who was in control, that glorious feeling remained, burning within him.
You’ve spent your whole life seeking the next best high from drugs or the arms of a woman, Magnus told him. When all along, all you had to was surrender to the god who wants you. Easier, isn’t it?
That’s questionable, Justin responded. I can control when I take the drug. I can walk away from the woman. Something tells me that once I give in to Odin, there’s no going back.
You won’t want to, Magnus assured him.
Age of X Series:
1. Gameboard of the Gods
2. The Immortal Crown
FTC Advisory: Dutton/Penguin provided me with a copy of The Immortal Crown. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.